When I think about others, I like to consider all our relations – of all species. We have been blessed with so many abilities and luxuries and we have a responsibility to help those who are more vulnerable, and this includes all the animals and winged ones. When I was in my Toronto apartment, still struggling to heal and to move on from years of exploitation, my pets were a lifeline. My rescue animals came to me when I needed them most. When I was ready for a cat I prayed for the one that needed me even more than I needed her. I didn’t care what gender or colour or kind, I just wanted the one that needed me. I ended up with a senior cat with viral problems and skin and eye problems and it turned out she had cancer. But she was perfectly imperfect and was my best friend and healer. I had her before I even had furniture.
I knew it wouldn’t be a home without a fur baby. The furniture could wait.
My cat helped me overcome addiction and learn boundaries. Then, although I didn’t feel quite ready for one, a dog came to me in a crisis needing a home. He helped me with accountability and a sleep routine, and he improved my mental health and so much more. Now that I’ve moved north to be closer to my mom, I continue to find ways to offer shelter and refuge to the wild creatures in our midst.
Food and lodging
Stray cats, rabbits, raccoons, birds and squirrels love to visit a big tree outside my window. In the summer, there are chipmunks and butterflies, too. In the winter, when the world is frozen over and covered beneath a blanket of white, I like to put food out for them. There are all kinds of ways to make bird houses and create other spots of refuge for strays. This can even be a fun project for the whole family, providing a great teaching opportunity and the chance to instill in children values of care, kindness and generosity.
I had a fluffy black cat visit me in the new year, and I made him a cute little home. I use straw or hay for outdoor shelters, as blankets can get damp and freeze which can endanger the animal. For the house itself you can use an old cat or dog crate, an old storage tote with an entrance cut out, or sometimes even under a porch can be made into a little house. Just be prepared that other critters like rabbits might like this as well, but I believe that all creatures deserve comfort and safety anyway. Birds might use leftover straw to add to their nests.
No yard? No worries! You can make bird houses and hang them along public nature trails (check if this is allowed!). If your family is considering a pet to bring into your home, consider rescue animals. Or donate old towels and blankets to the SPCA. There are many creative ways to contribute to the homes of our furry friends – companions that give us so much love and devotion – and to show our gratitude for having homes of our own.
I have seen miracles and received blessings and survived unthinkable things. I have learned from people who have very little or who experience extreme difficulties and challenges but still have a spirit of grace. And so, I go to where I am called to be of service and to offer help wherever I am guided. I ask Great Spirit to work through me and to help me help others. This in turn inspires and empowers me, and is part of my healing journey. I am so grateful for the blessings I receive and all that continue to flow to me
This article appeared as a sidebar in our February 2022 issue under the title: A roof over everyone’s (and everything’s!) head. If you like that title better, maybe you’d enjoy a print subscription!
Hear more of Angel’s story: The Poverty Pandemic.
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